With a CV boasting current and former members of Electric Wizard, Unearthly Trance and Ramesses, New York based Doom Supergroup Serpentine Path were always going to attract attention with their relentless misanthropy and anvil heavy take on the genre. Sure enough their self titled 2012 even gained favourable reviews on the likes of BBC Music for the ability to collide the influences of Death Metal artists like Autopsy with the more progressive jams of Sleep.
Back with sophomore album ‘Emanations‘ their ranks are swelled by the addition of Winter mastermind Stephen Flam on guitar which has leant the band new depth in terms of sound and song writing, as well as another name with an impressive pedigree. There are few bands out there that could match their unrelenting delivery and fuzzed out sludge, yet alone conjure such relentlessly bleak landscapes and still make them listenable and captivating.
The additional sonic dimension is clear from the get go as ‘Essence Of Heresy‘ wastes no time in crashing in with the slow, grinding low end signature sound and gruff, from the pits of hell style vocals. This is Doom at it’s most creeping and slow; glacial movements of fingers on fretboards and considered pulverising of drums. A steady but relentless march that is born of Black Sabbath nightmares, heavy on the low end, offset by vertigo inducing bends and dripping with evil.
On the opening track there is not a step missed from the atmospheric drama of the music, wrought from long, ringing chords and the almost Egyptian flavoured guitar melody that breaks out into a chilling solo, to the thematic lyrics where Ryan Lipynsky intones ‘swallow your soul’ in a manner so bleak you won’t want to listen to ‘Emanations‘ with the light off.
Barely pausing for throat lozenges ‘House Of Worship‘ continues the theme. The occult themed lyrics are intoned, almost spoken word in their guttural snarl as the music settles into a plodding march that is almost hypnotic in its head nodding tempo evoking some dark ritual. Over the top of this the guitar squalls with unsettling melodies that are, at times, pure sludge as the musicians strain against each other, finding space to wring out new and increasingly twisted motifs.
Over the course of the album Serpentine Path do not venture too far from the template laid down on the first two tracks but use these foundations to explore and expand on this bedrock with variations and in turn use them to crush the listener with the sheer power of the dense atmospheres. Tracks like ‘Treacherous Waters’ crawl by, stalking and pulverising with slow and seemingly simple walls of slow moving sound; ‘Claws’ alternates between sledgehammer blows and sinister guitar melodies and deep resonating bass conjuring a soundtrack straight out of a video nasty of old.
On ‘Disfigured Colossus’ the band threaten to break into a lumber and is a comparatively up beat and catchy in the context of ‘Emanations‘ with the band returning to the motifs of the chorus, finding glee in the celebration of bleakness before the one-two combination of ‘Symptomatic Extinction‘ and ‘Torment‘ close the album without reprieve, especially on the epic final track.
It was never in doubt with such a calling card of members that ‘Emanations‘ would be an album worth hearing and it doesn’t fail to deliver. This is a collection of incredibly powerful doom that stomps it’s way relentlessly across the musical landscape apologising to no one. The Death Metal influence gives it a harder edge than the bong room jam of many a traditional Doom band and give the music more focus rather than drifting off into sprawling epics. Serpentine Path positively reek of spite and evil intent on their second album.
There may be moments over the course of the running length where the attention span can wander slightly due to the unabating, oppressive nature of the music but there is always an eerie solo or a dramatic shift in tempo to bring you back.
The band claim to be one of the heaviest bands on the planet in their press release, hearing ‘Emanations‘ I would make that about right.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden